Recently, I decided it was about time I re-read the Harry Potter series. For a little something different, I decided to do it on audio this time around. It has been longer than I like to admit since I have read the series that defined my generation as wearers of round glasses and wizard’s robes (terrible cosplay photos to follow). I was, therefore, surprised at the wave of nostalgia and memories that washed over me as I listened to the audio of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets this past month.
What surprised me the most was the vivid connection between the books and the GameBoy advance video games I played as a child, something I hadn’t thought about in many years. The early video games were based more exactly on the books than the movies, so the audio from the books did what re-watching the movies didn’t–it brought me back to days curled up with my GameBoy in my bedroom or in the back of the car on road trips, playing my way through the plot points of the books. As I walked through Kroger with earbuds in my ear, I could recall tossing gnomes out of the garden in the GameBoy game from Chamber of Secrets. I remembered hiking up to the Astronomy Tower with Norbert in a crate and facing Aragog the giant spider in the glorious grainy glory of early video game graphics. It had never occurred to me until now how much time I had spent in the world of the games, the closest one could get to really being in Hogwarts at the time.
These memories of the GameBoy games were not the only forgotten things that listening to the audio of these books brought back for me, though. I could also remember the pain in my left arm as I lay in bed for two weeks, on bed rest to rest a badly broken and dislocated wrist. The feeling of propping the second Harry Potter book up against my legs, clutching it with one arm and sobbing as Fawkes the Phoenix saved Harry from almost certain death, came back to me so vividly that I found myself tearing up again.
While I have been nostalgic for many things as I grow up and realize how hard adulting is, the experience of listening to the Harry Potter audiobooks has made me realize anew what a unique and pervasive part of my childhood (and the childhoods of so many) these books and the culture that surrounded them are. So, rather than review the books that were such a part of my childhood, I’ve written this post musing on the ways that the books are connected to non-book things in my past.
As far as how the books hold up now for adult me, it’s hard to say. Such a thick coating of nostalgia prevents me from really offering up any critical judgment, though I will say some things that struck me as perfectly rational as a child are at times both concerning and hilarious as an adult. For instance:
Child reaction: “The Dursleys forced Harry to live under the stairs? Makes sense.”
Adult reaction: “Wait… The Dursleys forced Harry to live under the stairs and no one called Child Protective Services?”
Child reaction: “No one ever celebrates Harry’s birthday? Of course they don’t.”
Adult reaction: “Shit, these books are kind of depressing aren’t they?”
All in all, I highly recommend giving the audiobooks a go, even if I didn’t always agree with the ways that Jim Dale pronounced things.
So what about you, Internet people? Have you revisited a beloved book or series from your childhood? Did it hold up? Did you have unexpected nostalgia?